Carol started the day energized and ready to go. It was beautiful Saturday morning and she set out to take her ten year old son, Kevin, to the park. There were plans to go to the circus when Kevin’s father, Robert, came home from work. She had arranged a sitter for her youngest, Kelly, who was only 18 months old. She thought that the circus would be over stimulating and forgettable for the baby. Carol was excited because Kevin had been having a hard time at school making friends. He was smaller than the other boys his age, but was very intelligent and this made them jealous. As a result, they teased him incessantly about the very quality they wish they had – aptitude. Many times Kevin would come home crying. Some days he would be withdrawn, but he always brought home stellar grades.
When the circus came to town, Carol and Robert immediately bought tickets for premium seats. Kevin would be delighted to be so close to the elephants and the clowns. They also arranged to have pizza with the Ring Master, his lion, and few other prominent circus entertainers. Carol made sure that Kevin had to nicest outfit to wear and a new ball cap (he loved how they looked on him).
Carols mom, Nana Jean, agreed to watch Kelly while Carol and Kevin went to the park for the afternoon. On their way to the park Kevin began to complain about how hot it was outside. Not just a comment here and there – no – Kevin wailed about it being hot outside. Carol’s good mood was starting to fade, but she sternly corrected her son as lovingly as possible and he seemed to straighten up. Carol bounced back to her cheery attitude as they arrived at the park. She found a nice bench under a tree, and told Kevin that he could play anywhere he wanted as long as he followed some simple rule.
“Listen to me, I am your mother,” she began. “Any equipment that has stairs, you need to step on each and every one of the stairs. If there is a handle, you must use it. If there is a limit to how many children can play on it at a time, you must obey the rule. If someone got there before you, you must be courteous and give them their turn. If someone is rude, you mustn’t be rude back. I am your mother and I raised you with good manners! You must also stay out of the pond. I have a special treat for you tonight, but you need to be obedient to receive it. Do you understand me Kevin Mitchell Smith?”
Kevin understood, nodded his head and uttered out a compliant “Yes Ma’am” before he ran toward the playground.
Carol sat down with her book and began to read. She was still very excited about the events to come. She couldn’t wait to shock Kevin. She and Robert had kept the circus surprise for over a month. As she turned the page, out of the corner of her eye she saw Kevin disobeying one of her rules! Carol rushed over to the playground where she saw Kevin jumping from the top of the slide to the ground.
“Kevin! Didn’t I instruct you to use the equipment properly?”
“Sorry Momma. I was just having fun.”
“Kevin, you could get hurt! Now what did I tell you to do?”
“Take the stairs if there were stairs, use the handles, be courteous and not rude, obey the park rules, and don’t go near the pond.”
“That’s right. If you don’t obey these rules, then you could get seriously hurt. I am your mother and you are special to me. I want to keep you safe, do you understand?”
Kevin nodded in agreement again. Carol dusted him off and sent him back to play. While she was walking back to her seat, she heard kids screaming. She turned around only to see Kevin running toward the pond with the doll of a little girl. The litter girl was crying and screaming for her doll and Kevin was laughing euphorically as he bolted toward the pond. Carol caught up with him and saved the doll from being submerged in the slimy water. She handed it back to the little girl and told Kevin to apologize – he complied.
“Kevin I don’t understand what has gotten into you today! Come have a seat with me for a few minutes. Come drink some water, and have some yummy carrots and apples!”
Kevin immediately threw himself on the ground. “I wish I were at home! At least there I could have all the cookies and lemonade I want!” Kevin began to cry loudly and threw dirt in the air. Carol was so angry; all lovely thoughts about the upcoming evening had vanished. She was beside herself and thought about tanning Kevin’s hide right there in the middle of the park. She grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to the shade. Carol took Kevin’s dirty face in her hands and looked him directly in the eye, seemingly unmoved by his outburst.
“Kevin, you are not doing a good job at being obedient, nor do you have the proper attitude to be rewarded. Straighten up young man! If you don’t, you will be very disappointed.”
This took Kevin aback. He had never seen this side of his mother before. Instead of making him compliant, it only made him crankier.
“I don’t care Momma! I don’t care! I don’t want a reward. I want cookies, and lemonade, and I want to go on the boats in the lake!”
With that, Kevin started up again toward the lake; faster this time. Carol almost didn’t catch him, but when she did she picked him up, almost pulling a muscle in her back. Carol’s strength surprised her as she carried the boy all the way back to the car, which was a quarter of a mile away from the park. She strapped Kevin into his seat firmly. Her eyes glared into his, more intensely than before, and she dared him to say another word before they reached home. Carol took Kevin by the arm in the house. To her surprise, Robert had come home early. He was excited too and wanted to get an early start for the evening’s festivities with the family. Robert was startled by Carol’s swiftness into the house. The look on her face signaled only one thing, their child had gotten out of line.
“Kevin, son, what on Earth is going on?”
Kevin stared angrily at his father without a word.
“Robert, Dear, Kevin disobeyed all of the rules I gave him at the park and his attitude is atrocious! I had to carry him back to the car in fear he would run to the pond and hurt himself!” Carol gave Robert the details about every incident of Kevin’s defiance.
Roberts face became hot. It was then that Kevin knew he had gone too far. He tested his mother and father a lot, but never both his mother and father at the same time.
“Kevin,” Robert began in a stern, but calm voice, “Your mother instructed you specifically about her expectations on your behavior while at the park. You clearly did not follow those instructions. I can even tell by the look on your face that you have not been on your best behavior. Now, your mother and I love you and we want to give you good things, but your bad behavior will not go unpunished! Tonight, we had a wonderful night planned. We were going to the circus and we were going to sit in the front row so you could even touch the elephants. After, we were going to eat pizza with the Ring Master, lions, and circus performers. But you have ruined that opportunity. You will not go to the circus tonight. In fact, you will stay home with the sitter and your little sister will go instead. There will be no video games and no movies. You will have your dinner and you will go to bed forty minutes earlier than you do on a school night. We love you son, but I and your mother are very disappointed with you. We forgive you, but you will pay the consequence tonight for what you have done!”
Kevin began to tremble, not only in fear, but of true distress from what he had just learned. He was going to miss out on the event that every kid in his grade was talking about. Huge tears formed in Kevin’s eyes. The difference between these tears and the ones from earlier in the day was that they were from sincerely remorse.
“Mommy, Daddy, please! I will act right and I will behave! I will not be like this again. I want to go to the circus! I really want to go and I know you worked hard to get tickets for us. Please let me go!”
Carol and Robert shook their heads. Robert reiterated Kevin’s consequence, but assured that next year when the circus came back to town that the family would go again. Kevin thought he could test the limits one more time later that night by trying to get in the car when everyone was preparing to leave. He got a swift smack on the bottom, and he knew that he had been defeated. When his parents and his sister pulled out of the driveway, he went to his room after that and didn’t come out except for dinner. When Kevin’s parents came home, he was already asleep. They came up to his room with lion toy from the circus and left a note that said:
Son, we expect great things from you. God gave you mighty talents and gifts,
but you must learn how to use them wisely. Next year, we know you will be ready for the circus.
Love, Mom and Dad.